Thursday 19 September 2019

PSNI investigating after two woman claim they were sexually abused as children by Orange Order

Orange Order (stock photo)
Orange Order (stock photo)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Two women have claimed they were sexually abused as children by Orangemen and that the Orange Order did nothing when informed of the abuse.

The women made the claims as part of an investigation into sexual abuse in the Fermanagh area by the Impartial Reporter reporter Rodney Edwards.

They claimed that they were abused by several members of the Orange Order in the 1970s.

The two women claimed that they were abused near Orange halls during band practice and after parades.

In a statement the Orange Order accepted the severity of the allegations and said they would cooperate fully with any police investigation.

Police have set up a taskforce to investigate multiple historic allegations of abuse against multiple people in the Fermanagh area.

The two women who have accused members of the Orange Order said that they believe there was a "cover up" within the organisation who protected the alleged abusers due to their status within the organisation.

One of the alleged victims, referred to as Sara to protect her identity, told the BBC that she was raped by a member of the Orange Order as a child after singing in church.

She claimed that she approached church leaders and the Orange Order in Co Fermanagh with her allegations and that they did "absolutely nothing".

"The church sent me to a religious counsellor, I believe his title was, and he wanted to teach me how to pray for forgiveness so I never went back," Sara claimed.

"I went to one session - and at that point I was suicidal - and this man was asking me to pray for forgiveness and that was like another slap in the face."

Sara claimed that the people she told about the alleged abuse were "out of their depth" and unable to deal with the allegations.

"I'm not making excuses for them but people did not know what to do," she said.

"I just wanted what had happened to be acknowledged and some form of punishment and then awareness - and that didn't happen.

"There was no punishment that I know of given out to the perpetrators."

She said that she felt "punished" after nobody acted on her claims.

"The more that happened the more you withdraw and the less likely you are to speak out, ever," Sara said.

"So I was lucky - in so many respects I am one of the lucky ones."

Sara said that she made statements to police regarding her case in the late 1990s.

"People were questioned and eventually I was asked to go up to Belfast to meet the DPP (director of public prosecutions) and was told that lack of evidence, an old case - 'Sorry, we're really sorry but there's nothing we can do' - and that was it, go home, " she said.

The PSNI has confirmed that they have reopened Sara's case.

"The police contacted me three months ago to tell me that they were reopening my case but I've yet to be interviewed," Sara said.

"I don't know if they've interviewed any of the people I made allegations against, I just don't know what's happening."

A PSNI spokesperson said that both cases of alleged abuse involving Orange Order members in Fermanagh had previously been investigated and directed upon by the Public Prosecution Service.

"Both cases are being reviewed to ensure all lines of necessary inquiry were completed at the time and to determine if any new evidence is now available," the spokesperson said.

"Detectives have maintained contact with the victims throughout and will continue to do so.

"The public should be assured that detectives treat every allegation of child sexual abuse seriously, whether it happened recently or many years ago."

In a statement the Orange Order accepted that the allegations were "very serious".

"The Orange Institution will fully co-operate with any PSNI investigation," a spokesperson said

The organisation said they would make no further comment at this point.

Police said that anyone with information relating to historical abuse in the Fermanagh area can contact them on 101 or via email through historicalabuse@psni.pnn.police.uk where they will be put in touch with a specially trained officer.

Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News